Over 100 young people across Ireland are currently part of the Ability Programme with Irish Wheelchair Association, our skills and employment programme for people with a physical disability aged 18–29yrs.

From Donegal to Cork our members are working with job coaches and mentors to find their own path, look for opportunities and live the life they choose.   

All participants work directly with their regional job coach for the specific training or recruitment support they need. Some also enjoy the benefits of the Ability Programme’s group support, alongside other young people who are training, upskilling or navigating their career path. What everyone has in common is their motivation and optimism for their future.  

Here are 4 tips our members have shared, based on their experience and success. 

1. If in doubt, start a course. 

Finding a course in personal training and nutrition was a turning point for Carmel Creaven, after her own accident. This has allowed her to begin a career as a specialised fitness trainer for people with disabilities.  

“Don’t be afraid to do a course, even if it’s a short one. You need something behind you to help you get there. I know a lot of people aren’t into studying but there is something out there for you. Apply for something and get help from your job coach. If you keep getting rejected just keep pushing on and prove them wrong.  “Everyone can do something, it doesn’t matter about your disability.” – Carmel 

2. Network, use your contacts. 

For Elena Canty and Sean O’Kelly, networking and thinking about your contacts is really important when you’re trying to find work. They both found that employers are much more willing to hire a person with a disability that they know or has been recommended to them.  

While Sean was working on his CV and interview skills he also believed he would have to use networking and contacts to get a job he wanted. “As time went by, it became more and more apparent that networking for me was key to having any hope of getting employment.” He was right and when Sean finally got an interview through a contact, his preparation and work paid off.  

Elena works in marketing and agrees that networking has played a huge role in her success. “Networking is a huge piece of advice. I asked lots of people and services for advice and support. They weren’t going to come to me. I learned about the services that were available for me and I used them all.” 

3. Practice your interview skills 

One thing that Sean O’Kelly feels that really helped him on his career journey was learning and practising his interview skills. 

 “One thing that changed for me was that Ability [the Ability programme] gave me a mock-interview. That really really helped me in the long-term. The more interviews I was doing the more confidence I was getting. Definitely, the ability programme helped me with that and CV preparation. It was really good that way.” – Sean 

4. Keep going. 

Persistence is a key ingredient when you are looking for a new career or opportunity.  

“Just go for it. Feel the fear and do it anyway. If you get knocked back just get up and go at it again and again and again. You will get there. You will get that perfect job. After I got rejected after interviews people said to me ‘you will get that perfect job and look back on those [earlier] interviews and see that those jobs weren’t the right job for you. And they were right, they weren’t the right job for me. Whereas I love where I am now.” Sean.  

 “I am where I am because I got that support that was catered around me, not my disability. It was about my goals and what my needs were and what I wanted to do, not about what my job coach needed to get done. Only for the Ability programme, I am where I am today” – Carmel Creaven.  

Learn more about Irish Wheelchair Association’s Ability Programme and sign up today www.iwa.ie/ability